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Updated Up To 18/01/2017
Volume 15, issue 1 (January 2017) : 23-46
Utopia and Its Otherwise
Revolutionary Youthfulness, Lyricism, and Alternative Quests for the “East” in Kundera’s Life Is Elsewhere
Man-tat Terence Leung
Rubric A: Literature and Ideology
Rubric B: Twentieth-Century Literature



Contrary to widespread celebrations of the Western sixties as the antiauthoritarian heyday of “shining youthfulness” and “revolutionary lyricism” in contemporary cultures, Milan Kundera’s novel Život je jinde (Life Is Elsewhere), written shortly after the Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia in 1968, exposes the narcissistic underside of this subversive epoch through a highly subjective juxtaposition of the two major historical events that happened in the same year in Eastern and Western Europe — Prague Spring and French May ’68. While Kudera’s idiosyncratic historical perspective, which perceived the Prague 1968 as more important than the May uprisings in Paris, may infuriate many Western readers, I argue that the book Život je jinde does not entertain a totally dismissive, unsympathetic attitude towards the revolutionary traditions of modern Europe at large. Relatively ignored by the critical world ever since its publication, Life Is Elsewhere not only outlines some radically alternative visions of the European sixties but also provides innovative ways to problematize the epistemological and ideological confines implicitly attached to the currently reigning liberal-democratic capitalism.

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